Professor of Media and Society Linda Robertson premiered her documentary, “Daughters of the New Republic: Harriet Tubman and Sarah Bradford,” in the Vandervort Room on Thursday, April 21, at 8 p.m. The documentary, which traces the collaboration between the abolitionist and her biographer, represents the contributions of HWS faculty, students and staff, as well as members of the Geneva and surrounding communities.
“This documentary is groundbreaking not only because it traces the journey these two women made until they met as collaborators, but also because unlike other subjects of documentary biographies, Sarah Bradford ironically left behind little for a biographer to use to piece together her inner life,” Robertson explains.
“Daughters of the New Republic” follows the lives of Tubman and Bradford, exploring why Tubman, who was illiterate, trusted Bradford to tell her story to the world, and why Bradford said “yes” at a time when she was planning to leave the country to provide her three daughters opportunities to shape their own lives in Europe. Bradford was a pioneer in the genre of literature for children and young adults. When her husband abandoned her with six children, she supported them through her writing. During the Civil War, she started a school for young women and girls in her Geneva, N.Y. home, where the Colleges’ Office of Admissions is now located.
Robertson conducted years of research into Bradford’s family history and into the hints and clues found about her in the scant autobiographical statements and fiction works she published to explore why Bradford and Tubman established a “mutual sympathy.” She says the documentary “brings to light for the first time” the results of this research.
The story is told through unvoiced re-enactment, voice actors, narration, archival material and illustrative visuals from the period, and was filmed in the Bradford House, the HWS President’s House, as well as the Granger House in Canandaigua and the Seward House in Auburn.
“Today, Harriet Tubman is an icon for the struggle for freedom in the United States,” says Robertson. “Her story might have been lost to history if not for one woman, Sarah Bradford, who agreed to write her friend’s biography.”
The screening was free and open to the public.
In the photo above, Professor of Media and Society Linda Robertson works with students to film her documentary.